As the Chief Operations Officer of the Peninsula Group and Chief Executive Officer of BrightHR, Alan Price is a subject matter expert in employment law, human capital management, HR and business transformation.
The Peninsula Group provides people support namely HR, employment law and health & safety transformation to over 75,000 businesses in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Alan is responsible for the leadership of the Group’s operations strategy, presiding over 125,000 client monthly service interactions and client experience engagements. He also holds a number of non-executive positions across the 11 Group companies, while maintaining a Group operational overview and Group HR responsibilities.
His current project is overseeing the global roll out of our #hrtech and #safetytech business brighthr a SME HCM SAS proposition supporting over 44,000 organisations and over 500,000 users worldwide.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Alan Price: I grew up in a Liverpool council estate with no traditional education post-secondary school. I left school as soon as I could to work in retail. With an identical twin (10 minutes difference in age) and one sister our household was far from quiet. I have never had a passion for sports but did enjoy airplanes and entrepreneurship, both my twin brother and I had numerous failed business ventures from age 9 onwards, including selling frozen berries, car washing and offering to carry the neighbour’s food shopping, all at a reasonable low price of pence rather than pounds! From there we moved to numerous paper rounds (morning, evenings, and weekends) coupled with supporting the local milkman and window cleaning businesses.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Alan Price: From a young age I was interested in two things – earning money and planes. I joined the Air Training Corps with my twin brother and had always envisaged joining the Royal Air Force but that wasn’t possible. However, retail was, and my first real job was adding tissue paper to expensive suits and dresses in a fashion retailer in Liverpool aged 16.
My career began to flourish in retail management and then moved to insurance. During that time, I found I had a passion for employment relations, so much so that I became a Lay Trade Union Official and then subsequently a Non-legal Lay Member of the Employment Tribunals at the young age of 24. I was one of the youngest judicial appointments at that time and one of the youngest ever employment tribunal lay members in the UK, it is still today one of my proudest achievements. I’ve also been able to support my global professional body in HR as a Charity trustee and non-executive director of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
I began my time at the Peninsula Group as an Employment Law Consultant, quickly progressing to Corporate Employment Law Advice Line Manager. I loved what I did and spent all my spare time developing my knowledge and seeking out experts in the field to develop my skills and learn from the best. If you love what you do investing spare time into a business-related passion does yield significant dividends. During my three years on the Corporate Team, I grabbed every opportunity to demonstrate innovation and forward thinking, constantly wanting to enhance and improve the team with a view to improving customer retention and increasing business revenue. Its important in business that you learn from those around you. This was recognised and I was offered an excellent opportunity at the age of 28 to move to the Peninsula Dublin office to become the Head of Irish Operations and Development. I stayed in Dublin for over three years and really did enjoy the experience, mixing with a new team and displaying strategic thinking that grew the client base, so much so that I was promoted to Operations Director for the Irish operation and ended up as Managing Director. It was then that I was offered the role of Group Employment Services Director based in Manchester and in 2015 I became the Group Operations Director.
My current role is CEO at Bright HR, an exciting HR tech company within the Peninsula Group. I’m also actively involved in the wider group companies, as COO for Peninsula and Group Chief Operating Officer of Croner
For all these roles, I need to constantly think ‘outside the box’, make reasoned but instinctive decisions that carry huge consequences and always consider the staff in line with the business needs and service we provide to clients. I will not say it is easy, but it is satisfying knowing that we are supporting over 100,000 SME business owners.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Alan Price: BrightHR is an innovative and industry-leading HR software and employment law advice firm, transforming people management for small businesses all over the world. Our HR software, expert employment law advice, and health & safety tools and guidance give employers everything they need to manage and grow their business during the pandemic and beyond.
We passionately believe in the power of small businesses but could see employers struggling with the responsibility of HR and the time it took to manage. So, we set out on a mission to change that.
Our software lets employers manage all their HR in one place, from their desktop and mobile app. From handling everyday HR tasks—like logging sickness, calculating holidays, creating rotas, and much more—to creating complex contracts and policy documents, BrightHR gives employers HR technology that’s easy to use, and advice that’s clear, practical, and jargon-free.
Our clients might manage shift workers at a shop or have hundreds of full-time staff at a large company. Either way, we can save them time, money, and effort. Using our software means employers don’t have to spend hours every day on their HR tasks. Their time is freed up, giving them opportunity to actually grow their business.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Alan Price: There are four key values that I believe are important for anyone who wants to become a leader: being brave, being open, being an expert, and transforming yourself into an ally. This is something we work hard at BrightHR to instil in our people, and the best way to do this is to lead by example.
There’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned hard work and drive. I’m proof of that, having worked my way up through the company. Going to a large comprehensive school you learn resilience and the need to brush yourself off but also that you’re always just a small part of a large organization.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Alan Price: My primary rule is, don’t give up.
No matter how many knock-backs you might receive, always be prepared to dust yourself down and find an alternative route to the summit. It’s this kind of grit and determination required to take a business idea from just an idea and transform it into a profitable business or product.
Peninsula Group Managing Director and founder Peter Done is my inspiration. He started from humble beginnings, and he’s shown you can achieve anything through hard work, determination, and an unwavering passion for everything you do. I’ve worked for Peter for 20 years and he continues to inspire me to be my best every single day. Peter is very hands-on with the business and constantly looking at ways we can grow globally whilst always keeping personalised customer service at the heart of everything we do. The fact that he’s worked in business with his brother also resonates with me, as my twin brother runs another Peninsula Group Company.
Peter is also not afraid to take risks. Fear of failure is one of the main reasons that many people give up. Successful leaders treat failure as a learning curve and something to overcome in the future. Everyone inevitably makes mistakes along the path to success. But what matters most is that you own your mistakes, don’t give up and move forward quickly.
There’s always room for new ideas. I find that drawing on creativity can help drive improvements and growth for everyone’s benefit. To foster creative thinking, I frequently collaborate with various teams across BrightHR. Stepping actively into this role and facilitating workshops, mentoring, or planning day sessions to see how you can become a more active conduit for innovation in your work environment.
I also find surrounding yourself with the right people aids development. As in any profession, the people you make connections with matter. Well-connected mentors and experienced peers can help set you on the right course for success.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Alan Price: To be successful in business great communication skills are key; no business transaction is a solitary endeavour, so a CEO must be able to communicate effectively with people both internally and externally.
Another important quality is to be unafraid to take risks, to run a business you need an entrepreneurial spirit and not be afraid to take risks to advance the business.
Last, but definitely not least, it is important to be passionate about your business. By being passionate you will pursue each project with great determination and focus on getting the best possible outcome for your business.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Alan Price: Our biggest challenge as a business was in 2020 when we had to completely shift our offering to small businesses in the pandemic as they faced brand-new government restrictions and regulations. We had to give employers ways to overcome these challenges – whilst facing the same challenges ourselves.
This meant, for example, creating software to help employers with such things as managing staff working from home, while all our staff were working from home for the first time, too. We had to find new ways to keep communication channels open, like using video calls, screen sharing, and collaboration tools like Slack and Figma to plan out new products and launches.
In April we launched the furlough navigator to help employers plan wage claims, record staff details, and comply with the JRS. With enormous team effort we went from concept to creation in three weeks—under half the time a project of this scale normally takes—with over 95,000 furlough records logged to date.
We then rapidly shifted focus to release the Back to Work Navigator, helping employers bring staff back to the workplace safely. We invested £1million in the software and financed a national TV and audio communication campaign to raise awareness to prospective and existing clients. The Back to Work Navigator has now been used over 69,400 times.
We then released our new health & safety software, BrightSafe, which comes with tools and advice to make workplaces COVID-secure, including risk assessment templates, and H&S e-learning courses. We also launched BrightSafe On The Go, the app that lets employers manage essential H&S anywhere, followed by VaccTrak, a tool to help employers record who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine in their business. Most recently we’ve taken our first steps into AI with the launch of BrightLightning,
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Alan Price: Reacting too quickly to the changing economy and market and making long term decisions without knowing the full picture. It’s important to adapt but also remember business is cyclical so CEO’s need to consider what happens if the situation changes. Are the changes you are making permanent; can they be reversed? It’s important not to make snap decisions without considering all the possibilities.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Alan Price: I can’t say it enough – the ability to adapt to change, develop new products, get creative and listen to our team. This year we’ve been named HR Tech Provider of the Year by Personnel Today as well as winning the SaaS Company of the Year category at the UK Business Tech Awards. None of these would have been possible without the entire team reacting quickly and positively to whatever challenges were thrown at us over the last 18 months.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Alan Price: Coping with the increased demand is probably our biggest challenge right now. The ever-changing situation with Covid is a minefield for businesses of all size. The number of companies using our technology has increased by 388.6% globally over the last two years as businesses look for ways to simplify and navigate the world of HR. This kind of success is a great problem to have but we must make sure that we build and grow sustainably.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Alan Price: How to play Three Blind Mice on the recorder
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Alan Price: Moving our whole software team of 100 people and a £4,000,000 annual cost to developing furlough and pandemic related support for small businesses, many of which were closed during the period of investment. Our customers’ needs had changed overnight due to the pandemic, and we knew we had to respond fast. So, we created a full suite of brand-new innovative software to help employers manage new government guidelines and workplace regulations.
We’ve continued to innovate to support business owners through their challenges. In January this year, we launched VaccTrak—an online vaccine tracker that helps business owners record who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine in their business.
It also allows employers to issue their staff with an exclusive VaccTrak pass. Staff can then save these passes in their smartphone wallets for quick and easy access.
VaccTrak has helped to record over 120,000 vaccination statuses in the UK—meaning that 12,000 businesses have been able to open safely thanks to our vaccine tracker tool.
We’ve also launched the care navigator this year, to help care organisations get tailored health & safety support so they can keep up with the latest law changes.
This central online hub gives business owners access to compliant risk assessment templates, CPD-accredited and RoSPA assured e-learning courses, and essential care-sector resources.
And recently, we launched Bright Lightning—the UK’s first HR AI platform.
This online advice tool gives business owners lightning-fast HR answers, so they can resolve their HR dilemmas quickly. It’s powered by a team of 50+ HR experts, with over 30 years’ experience advising business owners. And it’s completely free.
Alongside Bright Lightning, we launched Bright Exchange—an online marketplace where customers can advertise their services and products for free.
Our aim is to create a community of like-minded business owners and to support employers in boosting their business post-COVID. Currently, there are 40,000 businesses and 450,000 customers that business owners can advertise to—and these figures are growing by the day.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alan Price for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alan Price or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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